Eternities : The Velodrome

The velodrome is a lightship, sometimes here and sometimes not; it appears and disappears in the black depth of the sky like a miracle sought by the Magi. Or one of the fugitive circuses that still occasionally visit the metropolis. Recent sites of sightings include Henson Park in Marrickville; O’Dea Reserve in Camperdown, now a children’s playground; and Waterworth Park in Tempe where, according to some observers, the lightship still rests sometimes although even its intermittent presence there is disputed by others. It’s notable that those who attest to its reality are mostly riders of velocipedes while the deniers are drawn exclusively from the ranks of the pedestrian. I myself have been seeking another glimpse of the lightship since that evening last century when, under a red, half-eclipsed moon, I found myself wandering the streets of Camperdown in a confused attempt to locate Liberty Street and hence my way home. I had of course been drinking, it was after a party at Rotary Offset Press where I worked as a proof-reader, I had said goodnight to my colleagues Darcy (Waters), Diana (Coninghayme), Katrina (the owner’s suicided daughter) et al and struck out across Parramatta Road intending to cut through the university grounds and thence make my way to Golden Grove. It must have been somewhere near the Science library, or perhaps one of the toxicology labs, that I missed my way. There was a white light shining in the west and it was towards this that I went, past obscure red brick buildings of unknown use, past gargoyles and dormitories, past blind ways and veritable groves of academe, until I saw the velodrome shimmer before me like the vision of a quest. Around and around its tilted oval the velocipedes raced, their helmeted riders bent low over the handlebars yet looking up with goggles like compound eyes: as if they were the insectivorous hosts of some alien parasite. Perhaps I was affected by the wine, perhaps I had smoked a joint or two, I cannot recall, but it seemed to me then and still seems now that I had come across a prodigy of unknown import. Those riders on their futile laps, those few sparse spectators, no doubt girl or boy friends, parents or well-wishers, struck me as worshipers in a temple of speed perhaps, or merely motion, dedicated to a rite only they could understand; as if accelerating forever around and around a Moebius strip. So that, when the first of the machines left the shining track and rose into the dark sky, when his or her fellows followed suit, when the velodrome itself, that lightship, began to ascend humming over the city I felt, not awe exactly, and certainly not surprise . . . rather a kind of grief afflicted me, as if such things might never come again. Only blackness remained where the velodrome had been; and I remember turning away from that hole in the night and going away up the hill with my cheeks wet with useless tears; and the shoes I walked within as heavy as I have ever known them to be : like lead, the cliché has it, enclosing feet of clay.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Eternities : The Velodrome

  1. Adam

    Oh a very sad entry for me, who was once a velocipede in O’Dea reserve in the mid 80s. It is not a pointless thing to do laps. No more pointless than writing. A transcendent experience as the meeting of speed and momentum and g-force add up to something completely unique. O’Dea velodrome was short and very steep, and the concrete was cracked and in no great condition. I would just climb in and climb out unnoticed on nights that were not given to the meets. odd I never decided to join a sprinting club. I wanted the whole place to myself and I got it.

  2. Beautiful writing – as always.

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